Until April 2013 a national scheme called the social fund was available to help people on benefits with emergency needs. Since April 2013 this has been replaced by various local welfare funds. The national scheme for England no longer exists except for budgeting loans (see below).
Each local authority administers their own local social fund with their own rules. There are no national guidelines. In many places help is no longer available through cash grants but instead the local welfare fund is used to support services provided by charities and the voluntary sector. Payments from local welfare funds come from a fixed local budget and there is no automatic right to help.
To find out about provision where you live you should contact your local council. You can also find links to your council’s web pages using the Child Poverty Action Group's local welfare fund guide.
Scotland and Wales have their own national schemes. More information is available from the Scottish government’s welfare fund page and the Welsh government’s discretionary assistance fund page .
The social fund consisted of a number of elements:
Budgeting Loans are available for individuals who need to spread the cost of one-off expensive items such as furniture/household equipment, clothing/footwear, home removal costs and maintenance/improvements. Budgeting Loans must be repaid - they are not an entitlement. You should seek advice if you are considering using these loan schemes.
More information is available from the government’s budgeting loans guide and for Northern ireland on the NIdirect website.